The facts are sad but true: Saturday morning cartoons suck now. But they didn't used to! There once were plenty of options when it came to our weekend intake of animated entertainment. Some were good, some were plain awful, and some were veritable legends. It was no small feat, but we at The MindHut have compiled a list of the five greatest Saturday morning cartoons that defined our childhoods.
Having the honor of being the first cartoon series to be animated entirely in CGI, ReBoot told the story of a world inside of computers called Mainframe—inhabited by the human-like Sprites, the Binomes, the twin viruses Hexadecimal and Megabyte, and the unseen godlike “User” (which is actually the thousands of people worldwide using their computers). By today’s graphical design standards, ReBoot is akin to ancient cave drawings, but for kids in the early to mid ‘90s this was some serious cutting edge stuff. With ingenious plots, memorable characters, and embodying the zeitgeist of the booming digital age, it’s no wonder kids tuned in every Saturday to watch this show!
4) The Real Ghostbusters
Saturdays were rife with cartoons based on popular movies, but this didn’t always guarantee they’d last longer than a year (e.g. Star Wars: Droids and Free Willy). That is, of course, if you happened to be The Real Ghostbusters. The slapstick horror that made the two films overwhelming successes translated into an entertaining cartoon series that ran from 1986 to 1991. Following the adventures of the Ghostbusters after the movies, each episode had the team fighting nearly hundreds of ethereal bad guys from the spirit world and beyond (they even went up against Cthulhu once, how awesome is that?). And as if the series couldn’t exert any more programming dominance, The Real Ghostbusters had an extra syndicated season that ran exclusive new episodes daily, concurrent with the ones airing on Saturday. That was nearly six new episodes a week!
3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Purists may argue that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series was a gross deviation from creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original concept, but you can’t deny the influence the Ninja Turtles had on our childhoods. No one could’ve guessed that a quartet of humanoid turtles trained in ninjutsu with an insatiable appetite for pizza would become a worldwide phenomenon, but something just seemed to click. Perhaps the best aspect of this series was that every fan had their own favorite Ninja Turtle they identified with and rooted for in each episode. And, as evil as they were, we all had a small place in our hearts for the likes of Shredder, Krang, Rocksteady, and Bebop (wouldn’t be a show without them). TMNT ran from 1987 to 1996. Because of this, the series has a huge multigenerational fanbase and was a Saturday morning staple for all of us. Cowabunga!
2) Batman: The Animated Series
There have been many animated series centered around Gotham’s caped crusader and DC Entertainment’s money maker, Batman. But the one series that proved cartoons can match the sophisticated writing and design of even the most poignant of comics was Batman: The Animated Series. Setting the bar for superhero-oriented cartoons, Batman: TAS drew inspiration from various sources such as Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and the macabre atmosphere of the Tim Burton films. These and more came together to create a series that, in some cases, seemed more geared towards teens and adults than the children it was intended for. Even though it met the standards of network censorship, Batman was still facing not only the familiar villains of his rogues gallery, but the psychological afflictions that defined their character and criminal motivation. Today, the series has an avid following with its creatives and voice actors regarded as celebrities.
This was a very tough call to make, given the strengths of Batman: The Animated Series. But X-Men, even today, is hailed as one of the greatest cartoons Marvel Entertainment has ever put out and goes as far being the greatest animated super hero series of all time. Like it’s DC contemporary, X-Men drew heavily from the designs of Jim Lee and pulled storylines nearly verbatim from the comic pages, especially when the X-Men family of comics were considered the best in the industry at the time. But its greatest accomplishment was the inimitable chemistry between the characters—in combination with exceptional voice acting—that just sang. While there were other Marvel cartoons featuring the likes of Spider-Man and Iron Man, they simply didn’t match the quality of X-Men.
What do you think is the greatest Saturday morning cartoon?